As a composition major, you will develop your individual compositional voice through a variety of active composing projects, alongside the study of contemporary music, orchestration, analysis, harmony, and counterpoint. Over eight semesters, while completing the college’s core music curriculum, you’ll receive opportunities to work with a diverse community of student musicians, distinguished faculty, industry professionals, and world-class visiting artists.
Composition majors study contemporary composition approaches, analysis, orchestration, harmony, counterpoint, and music history. The composition program prepares a composer to enter the contemporary music field by building strong fundamentals, developing their own individual compositional voice, and interacting with the vibrant and vast contemporary concert music field of today. Majors can choose from a variety of internationally recognized composition faculty for individual composition lessons. Most classes in the major utilize composition as a learning tool, giving students robust opportunities to develop their writing skills. While deeply knowledgeable in regard to historical trends and techniques of the 16th–21st centuries, composition faculty embrace contemporary practices and diverse styles and approaches. The student will demonstrate mastery of these skills and concepts by completing a portfolio of scores that include (but are not limited to) solo, chamber, vocal, and orchestral music.
In addition to studying the aesthetics and craft of composition, students gain valuable professional skills by working with performers, leading rehearsals, conducting and performing new music, and producing their own performances. Students also have opportunities to gain skills as orchestrators, arrangers, conductors, and assistants. Program graduates are ready to gain entry to a graduate program in composition and pursue a career as a professional composer, orchestrator, music director, teacher, scholar, or practitioner of music composition.
What Will I Learn?
Upon completion of a major in composition, students will:
- compose original scores of solo and chamber music, vocal and choir music, and full symphony orchestra;
- develop their own individual compositional voice;
- interact with internationally recognized visiting artists and ensembles;
- understand the contemporary music practices active today;
- analyze musical compositions in a variety of contemporary and historical styles;
- master the fundamentals in composition, orchestration, harmony, counterpoint, contemporary techniques, analysis, and history;
- synthesize and apply historical knowledge of compositional practices to the creation of original musical works;
- rehearse and conduct a performance of original composition;
- produce a recording of original compositions; and
- evaluate the historical, social, and cultural context of musical compositions.
There are no entrance requirements to declare this major.
Curriculum and Courses
There are 32 required credits specific to this major in addition to the B.M. required core music courses (41 credits), liberal arts courses (39 credits), and general electives (8 credits) for a degree total of 120 credits. See the sample curriculum for more information.
- ISKB-211 Basic Keyboard Techniques 1 (1 credit)
- ISKB-212 Basic Keyboard Techniques 2 (1 credit)
- CM-221 Techniques of Tonal Writing (2 credits)
- CP-215 The Art of Counterpoint 2 (2 credits)
- MLAN-311 Analysis of Classical and Romantic Music (2 credits)
- CP-311 Advanced Counterpoint (2 credits)
- CM-311 Contemporary Techniques in Composition 1 (2 credits)
- CM-312 Contemporary Techniques in Composition 2 (2 credits)
- CM-231 Instrumentation and Score Preparation (2 credits)
- MLAN-312 Analysis of 20th- and 21st- Century Music (2 credits)
- CM-441 Scoring for Full Orchestra (2 credits)
- CM-398 Directed Study in Composition 1 (1 credit)
- CM-497 Directed Study in Composition 2 (1 credit)
- CM-498 Directed Study in Orchestral Composition 3 (2 credits)
- Major Electives (8 credits)
- Senior Portfolio
Updated for catalogue year 2022 fall.
Meet the Composition Department
Berklee’s Composition Department is an open-minded program providing you the opportunities to find and develop your own compositional voice.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Learn about financial aid, scholarships, and others ways of paying for your Berklee education.
Watch Performances of New Works by Composition Majors